Tio: Sorousian

Wings

Listening Post 289. Any artist who mixes traditional and contemporary music navigates between old and new worlds but few, if any, bridge gaps as wide as Tio Bang. The multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter divides his time between modern Melbourne, Australia, and a treehouse—made of bamboo and cast-off timbers tucked between the roots of a towering banyan—in his native Vanuatu, an 83-island archipelago embracing more than 100 languages. On Sorousian (Story), his debut full-length album, Tio sings gently of city and nature, chiefs and elders, flowers and fireflies, fragile cultures and scattered isles (Vanuatu ranks as the nation most threatened by climate change and rising sea levels). Most touchingly, he measures the distance between the poles of his life: In Black Butterfly, performed in English and Daakaka, he is suspended between shores of material comfort and natural splendor, singing “for the voices that can’t be heard anymore” (video 1). Tanrah, sung in Bislama, is a loving tribute to his native Ambrym Island, enclosed by wind, waves, smoky volcano and cherished roots (video 2). Threading a fine line back in time, Mumbwe (video 3) is a mystical, masked ceremonial dance-chant in a language so old the meaning of its carefully enunciated words has been lost, preserving only a sense of shared history. There’s pacific repetition and a note of yearning in Bungbung Myaek, a children’s game-song (video 4). Live Easy, an elegant meditation on the lure and cost of change, reflects a shrinking divide between affluent and developing countries (video 5). Everyone carries souvenirs of past and present in the recesses of identity, but Tio makes the most of a rich trove. He embodies the wonder, perception and uncertainty of viewing the world through multiple cultural lenses—and the grace of a butterfly who rarely lands but has the wings and vocal range to cover great distances. (Wantok Music)

Language note. Tio sings in English, Bislama and Daakaka, three of Vanuatu’s 100+ languages. Formerly a joint French-English colony, upon independence in 1980 the nation adopted the two colonial languages as official, along with Bislama, a creole that blends English-derived vocabulary with Austronesian grammar and phonology. Daakaka is one of five languages indigenous to Ambrym, the artist’s home island. He also sings in an ancient language whose meaning has been lost.

Tio: Sorousian
Tio Bang: Vocals, guitar, bass, ukulele, percussion 
Hendrik Baransano: Bass 
David Bridie: Piano, keyboards, vocals 
Hope Csutoros: Violin 
Emmanuel Hakalitz: Drums 
David Leha: Vocals 
Helen Mountfort: Cello 
Luke Richardson: Bass 
Yosua Roem: Vocals 
Noemie Severin: Violin 
Kireni Sparks-Ngenge: Vocals 
Phil Wales: Guitar 

 

Black Butterfly
Tio Bang

(English lyrics plus final two lines translated from Daakaka)
Sitting in the middle of concrete jungle… whoa-yeah/I got this feeling deep inside of me,
Saying, I am poor/No no, I still believe
I’m still living/So I must sing
For the voices that can’t be heard anymore/Saying…

Black Butterfly flying high in the sky/Black Butterfly flying nowhere, nowhere…
Black Butterfly flying high in the sky/Black Butterfly flying nowhere, nowhere…

Said it’s getting dark/Flashing lights
Blue, green, yellow, red lights/Everywhere
Said it’s getting dark/Flashing lights
Blue, green, yellow, red lights/Everywhere

But I still believe/I’m still living
So I must sing/For the voices that can’t be heard anymore…

Black Butterfly flying high in the sky/Black Butterfly flying nowhere, nowhere…
Black Butterfly flying high in the sky/Black Butterfly flying nowhere, nowhere…

We sing, we dance, we laugh, the tam-tam calls out
We come together to talk about many different things

 

Tanrah
Tio Bang

(From the Bislama lyrics)
The volcanoes put us here today/You can see on Tanna, Ambrym, Ambae the smoke rising, the smoke rising
The ocean put us here today/You can see on Mataso, Ambrym, Pango, the waves coming ashore, the waves coming ashore

Ocean, volcanoes, fire is burning, wind is blowing
Chiefs and elders, today is the day for us to stand in unity
This will now be the place for us to remember our roots, our history
Ocean, volcanoes, fire is burning, wind is blowing

The sun is shining, people are happy/Rain is falling, giving a little water
The plants are growing well/Flowers are blooming
Oh yes, I feel blessed

Sunshine, rivers and stars/Ocean, volcanoes, fire is burning, wind is blowing
The ocean put us here today/You can see on Mataso, Ambrym, Pango, the waves coming ashore, the waves coming ashore

Wind is blowing…
Chiefs and elders, today is the day for us to stand in unity
This will now be the place for us to remember our roots, our history

 

Mumbwe
Tio Bang, Andrew Robinson, Traditional

Mumbwe is Tio’s reworking of a song used in the Rom custom dance which has held a special resonance for him since he first witnessed it as a child an Ambrym Island. The song is a catalyst for connection as groups of men would gather to sing and perform its accompanying dance in unison. The old language used in the song has been lost, but the sense of shared history remains. In Tio’s interpretation, harmonies and overlaid drum rhythms evoke the experience of performing this musical tradition on a bed of swelling synths and percussive textures.

 

Bungbung Myaek
Tio Bang, Andrew Robinson, Traditional

A children’s game-song with no translation readily available, sung in Daakaka and possibly including some archaic words difficult to decipher.

 

Live Easy
Tio Bang

(From the Bislama lyrics)
Life is changing/People are wondering where we are going next
Life is changing/People are wondering where we are going next

We’re better off living easy
Some people say: this place is mine and I’ll live however I wish
Destroying and building anything I want
Some people say…

Life is changing/We are living amongst different cultures
We’re better off living easy

Some people say: this place is mine and I’ll live however I wish
Destroying and building anything I want
Some people say…

 

 


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